John Peverada Jr., a retired Portland firefighter and former middleweight boxing champ, who served on the Maine Athletic Commission for several years, died Tuesday after a brief illness. He was 87.

Mourners will gather from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Jones Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home to celebrate and honor a man they say cared deeply about the community.

Mr. Peverada, a lifelong resident of Portland, was the youngest of 10 children. His mother died when he was 18 months old and he was raised by his father and older siblings. At 8 years old, he went to work selling newspapers to earn money for his family. He would also pick up coal from the train tracks on Commercial Street and sell it.

Mr. Peverada attended Portland High School, but left at age 17 to join the Navy during World War II. After the war, he finished school and graduated in 1947.

Mr. Peverada became a professional boxer in 1948 after winning the Maine amateur middleweight title and boxing in the 1948 Olympic tryouts. He made it to the final round of the tryouts, losing by a decision. A 1979 news story said his fight career was among the most spectacular in state history.

“A dynamite puncher, southpaw Peverada notched 11 knockouts in 12 winning outings as an amateur during his first six months in 1948,” the story said.

Mr. Peverada fought in matches throughout Maine and New England. He retired in May of 1950 with a 15-5-5 record, according to a 1950 newspaper brief about his retirement. He continued to train and manage boxers for many years.

“Everyone has always told me that he had a real powerful punch,” said his son, John Peverada III of Portland.

But this boxer put down his gloves for another fight. He became a Portland firefighter, and worked at various stations across the city for more than 21 years.

Joe McDonough, a retired Portland fire chief and longtime friend, said Mr. Peverada was a great firefighter and good man. He remembered the year they drove to Boston to watch the Patriots play.

“He paid for everything, even the beer and hot dogs,” McDonough said. “I didn’t even know him that well. All I could say was thank you. That was it. We had a great time. I got to see Joe Namath. Johnny made that happen.”

He was a loving husband of Dorothy Peverada for 53 years. The couple lived in Portland and raised three children. He was remembered by his family this week as a caring and supportive father, who encouraged his kids to pursue their dreams.

“He was always there for us. If we needed anything… if my car was broken down and I needed a ride, he picked me up,” his son said. “He was always a good role model. He played things straight. He was always a hardworking individual and did what he could to help people out.”

His daughter, Mary Pociask of Oak Hill, Virginia, touched on the small ways her father impacted others.

“If he knew someone in the hospital, he would bring a newspaper to them. People remember that. Maybe he left a loaf of fresh-baked Italian bread on your doorstep. He made little gestures. You knew he was thinking of you and people really appreciated that.”

Mr. Peverada had a lifelong commitment to physical fitness. His obituary, which was published in Thursday’s newspaper, said he ran in the Boys & Girls Club Patriots Day Race started by his brother Bart Peverada several times until his 70s. He was also a regular at Planet Fitness during the hours of 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.

He was a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the Boys and Girls Club Alumni Association, the Italian Heritage Center and the Elks Club, where he enjoyed playing cards with his friends. He had a close relationship with his grandchildren, attending as many of their sports events as he could.

At 86 years old, he got a job at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. He worked there for a few months until he got sick.

In December, he had heart valve replacement surgery. On Feb. 12, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach and esophageal cancer.

“I’ll just miss him,” his daughter said. “You kind of thought he was invincible.”